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How many times do you set out on the highway and realize you forgot something? While these days there’s a superstore at nearly every exit to pick up what you forgot, do you really want to stop? Especially if you have kids in car seats, stopping to grab something you forgot is not only challenging but frustrating on your part too. Below you’ll find a comprehensive road trip gear checklist of everything you could need and then some. Use some or all, it’s up to you.

Please note, this article does contain affiliate links, which at no additional cost to you, help support this blog.


The number one road trip gear item I always start with is our cooler. Depending on how long you’re gone and how many meals you want on the road depends on your size. We have the basic Coleman 40 quart wheeled cooler which is enough to fit waters, cold snacks, sandwiches, and a few other things for a full day on the road. I also have a bag of dry goods to go with our meals. This cooler, while not top of the line, is reasonably priced and has lasted us close to 10 years.

While I have not tried one of these yet, I am interested in the 12V Electric Coolers in the same capacity. This one plugs into the car and keeps items cool at 40 degrees. Now, this will only work if you keep it somewhere accessible to the cord. We keep our cooler in the middle row of a three-row vehicle. You can also look at smaller versions. I’ve linked a few with good ratings below.

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Related: How to Eat Healthy on a Road Trip


Travel Mugs

We’re working on reducing the amount of waste when we travel. We bring a couple of jugs of water, rather than individual plastic bottles. Here are a couple criteria for bringing in travel mugs into my car:

  • resealable lid (seriously Yeti cups, why do I need to buy that separate?)
  • cold or hot insulated capacity
  • rubber outside coating to grip, or a handle
  • sized to fit in my cup holder (again, seriously Yeti?)

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Coffee is a must for us, but I’ve yet to make my own while on the road. I found this article detailing how it’s done, but still not sure I’m ready to brave it. Anyone out there done this?


Portable Grill

Not everyone will want to travel with a portable grill, nor do I want to travel with one every time. But having a way to cook hot food for a day trip is a fantastic way to mix things up from cold cut sandwiches. I would recommend sticking to propane here so that you have fewer items to pack.

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Travel Games

If it’s a long road trip and you’d like to keep the kids off the screens at least part of the time, travel games are a must! We do a mix of paper games (like tick tac toe, battleship, license plate game) and portable travel games like these.

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Related: How to make an Awesome Road Trip Binder

First Aid Kit

Make sure your first aid kit is also stocked and ready to go.

Related: What to Keep in your First Aid Kit


For us, we road trip long distances. We love to cuddle up with a blanket and a kindle, or a book and settle in while dad does the driving.


If you have blankets, you need pillows. I’ve never been a big fan of travel pillows. Grab a pillow for each kid off their bed and they’ll feel more at home anyway.


Roadside Assistance Kit

Make sure you’re prepared in case of an emergency too and have your roadside assistance kit ready to go.

Related: What to Put in your Roadside Assistance Kit


Phone Stuff

Don’t forget things like your chargers, cords, a phone mount.

Related: The Ultimate Road Trip Playlist

Weather Related

Depending on where you’re going, have a snow shovel, ice scraper, and umbrella.


Remember, this is your gear list. You’ll still need your clothing, toiletry items, etc. We’ll cover that in another post down the road.

The complete guide to road trip gear with everything you could ever need

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